Tswelopele residents from Extension 8 won a legal victory against the EMPD and the City of Ekurhuleni on May 6 at the North Gauteng High Court.
The City of Ekurhuleni was ordered by the North Gauteng High Court on May 6 to desist from evicting land occupiers in Tswelopele Extension 8 without a court order. The City also has to pay each occupier R1 500 for damages to property that was caused during prior evictions.
Residents of Tswelopele took to the streets on March 19 in protest against the lack of service delivery and land occupation. Their anger was directed at the DA councillor of Ward 9, Dereck Thompson.
They marched to the councillor’s office in Olifantsfontein, but he was not present. They demanded that the office give them the right to occupy the piece of land on which they had built their shacks.
Florah Tjabadi, the community protest leader, said they wanted to meet with the councillor but he did not arrive.
“We hoped to get the land because we are currently living in shacks as tenants. The properties also accommodate orphans and pensioners and the majority of tenants are unemployed,” said Tjabadi.
The residents of Tswelopele Extension 8 have won a court victory against the EMPD and the City of Ekurhuleni.
Chauke said the court interdict would give the occupiers peace of mind because no one would repeatedly come and destroy their possessions.
Tjabadi said they were happy about winning.
“We have been trying to put a stop to the harassment since August last year and at last, we won. It means we won’t have to worry about paying rent and we can go out to look for jobs.”
Tjabadi claimed the EMPD had evicted the occupiers countless times, without ever showing the occupiers an eviction order. The first eviction was on December 16, four months after they took occupation of the land.
“We started to stay on the piece of land in August last year and we were chased away more than 10 times. Our belongings were scattered everywhere,” added Tjabadi.
The EMPD and the City withdrew their counter-application, but they previously argued in court papers that the occupiers did not live on the property and the structures were vacant or incomplete when they were demolished. They said the City did not need an eviction order to demolish vacant or incomplete structures.
“The structures were mostly incomplete and impossible for people to reside in and no children or elderly people were noted at the property,” the City said in earlier court papers.
Dozens left homeless after shacks demolished on Sunday
Forty-five people were left without homes when the eThekwini Municipality’s anti-land invasion unit demolished 24 shacks in Daytona River Village informal settlement in Lamontville, in the south of Durban on Sunday.
Zamokwakhe Hlongwa has lived in the informal settlement for the past four years. He said he lost almost everything during the demolition.
He said he was less worried about finding shelter than where he would get money to buy food for his two small children for the next ten or so days. He only gets paid on the last day of the month.
“They mixed all my food during their heartless demolition. I found rice mixed with maize meal and flour. I had to throw it away because it was messed up,” said Hlongwa.
He said he was home when the demolition took place. But everything happened so quickly.
“My fiancé was bathing when they stormed the informal settlement, she had to grab a towel and cover her body and run out of the shack. As a result all our belongings were left inside the shack,” said Hlongwa. This is why his goods and food were damaged.
He added that his children were not going to school because their uniforms had been torn.
Lunga Mgwaba has lived in the informal settlement for eight years. He said he was not home when the demolition took place. He had gone to deliver the products he sells to a nearby township.
He said he got a call from one of the shack dwellers telling him to stop what he was doing wherever he was and rush back to the informal settlement because the demolition had started.
“I was so lucky that they did not start near my shack. I called my brother who lives a few kilometres away and we packed my belongings in a van and drove off. Even though my shack was demolished and the material [it was made out of] was destroyed, my belongings were saved,” said Mgwaba.
The settlement was established in 2002 and the first demolition took place on 7 May 2019, a day before the general election. Residents claimed they were not given any court order, and they could not understand why the demolition was taking place only now.
Mqapheli Bonono, the provincial chairperson of housing movement Abahlali BaseMjondolo, said: “As usual there was no court order for this eviction and it was therefore an illegal and criminal act by the municipality.”
Bonono suspects the demolition took place because some residents recently joined Abahlali. “We suspect that the gangster administration, eThekwini Municipality, was angered by the shack dwellers’ decision to join our movement,” he said.
The municipality has not responded to questions sent on Monday.
Source: GroundUP by Musa Binda (emphasis by SDLAW*).
A few days before Christmas, while residents of a farm behind Cradlestone Mall were at work, the notorious Red Ants marched onto the land and tore down their homes [… evicting the squatters].
“They were just breaking down the houses and destroying everything,” says community leader Jeanette Baleni. “It was terrible, I cried that day.”
The farm, in the west of Johannesburg, had been acquired by Absa’s development subsidiary Blue Age Properties 60 Ltd in 2014 and the bank had obtained an eviction order against the residents in 2015. Absa claimed the land had been illegally occupied, but because there was nowhere to move the people to, the eviction order was only acted on in December last year.
“They misled the court,” said human rights lawyer Tracey Lomax, acting for the residents who say they’re the descendants of farm workers on the property for generations.
“They were simply treated like squatters … as if they had moved in illegally the month before,” she said. Lomax explained that once an eviction order is granted, relocating people becomes the responsibility of the municipality – in this case, Mogale City.
Baleni said Absa held meetings with Mogale City about the relocation but had not consulted the residents. “In 2015 the municipality came to tell us we’re illegal occupants,” Baleni said, adding that they paid rent – some for as long as 10 years – through a scheme started by the previous property owner who had a security business.
“We were renting from Gideon Ntini, from Interactive Security – he brought many of us here. He showed me the place actually,” Clayton Kamurai said, who also denied being an illegal occupant. Interactive Security National Sales Manager Renier de Meyer dismissed the claims.
Absa has denied that the process of eviction was flawed. “The court went through a process of determining who had what interest in that piece of land before deciding to issue the relocation order. At no point was any such claim made by anyone, that is, from the time Blue Age became the owner of the land and throughout the consultation process,” Absa’s head of Media Relations Phumza Macanda said.
[The municipality] promised us stands, water, electricity and other things.
When contacted for help before the eviction happened, Mogale City councillor Molefi Sebilo told the community they would be moved to another ‘better’ place as soon as possible. A year went by until last October when Selibo informed the residents they were being moved in three weeks. The community drafted a letter to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in Pretoria demanding to know why they had been given only a three-week deadline. A November meeting held between the municipality, the community and the department to establish how the relocation was to proceed.
Broken Promises [to evicted squatters]
“[The municipality] promised us stands, water, electricity and other things,” Baleni said. Health-e News has a recording of the meeting where a municipality representative called Tshepiso Ndlovu is heard saying: “At your new place, we’re going to install tap water, we’re going to give you stands, build toilets with running water and streets.” But according to the community, these were just empty promises. The reality was a disaster.
On 3 December Baleni was told the community would be moved two days later. Instead, the following day while residents were at work, the Red Ants arrived and broke into people’s shacks to move their belongings to the new place.
“Furniture was broken, our things were stolen – even our money,” Baleni remembered.
Blame Game: Absa and Mogale City Municipality are pointing fingers at each other for who was responsible for the relocation. (Photo: Health-e News TV Unit)
The community [and evicted squatters] said toilets only arrived after three days, and were inadequate. They currently share one working chemical toilet amongst 100 people and they have one illegal water connection provided by pitying neighbours and no electricity.
Some [evicted squatters] weren’t given any shelter and had to scrounge for materials in the rain to build a structure for their families. When Health-e News interviewed Mogale City municipality about the promises they made, councillor Selibo said: “I don’t know who promised them that [tap water and toilets]. They [the community] are telling a lie.” However, he admitted that Absa was in a hurry and there should have been proper planning for the relocation.
But Macanda argued this wasn’t Absa’s responsibility, but that of Mogale City which had three years to sort things out. Lomax, who works for Access to Justice and represents the Absa Squatter Camp community, said the treatment of the residents had been unfair. “Poor people are treated as if they don’t have agency … as if you are their father and you will let them know as much as you think they should know,” she said.
Any municipality tasked with eviction is constitutionally obliged to house people properly, Lomax explained. “My clients had strong ties to the land and we’re considering a damages claim.”
And now the neighbours and everyone relying on the water flowing from the wetland adjacent to the newly established informal settlement have been affected by the move.
Mogale City Municipality has admitted that no environmental impact assessment was done, nor was the Department of Water and Sanitation notified. Residents argue the Absa Squatter Campsite is inappropriate because informal settlements on wetlands that don’t have proper sanitation could pose serious health and environmental hazards.
Human waste causes a high biological load that pollutes the water, water expert Anthony Turton said. “Because the area is largely basement granite, the boreholes in the area are relatively shallow, about 30m deep,” he explained. “This puts the neighbour’s water at risk of contamination too.”
The wetland next to the Absa Squatter Camp supplies water to the Crocodile River which feeds into the Hartbeespoort Dam, a strategic water resource. Local farmers are worried about the Absa squatter camp being on the wetland because they fear ecoli contamination of the water they rely on for growing vegetables.
According to Lomax, the municipality only secured the property a couple of months before the relocation. She explains: “That is a problem because wetlands are scarce and heavily protected by environmental legislation. I am astonished they were allowed to do this where there is a wetland nearby.”
The municipality promised to put in bulk infrastructure to deal with the poor sanitation. But a visit to the pump station about a kilometre away revealed that it hasn’t functioned properly for five years and overflows into the wetland, causing further pollution.
According Absa, the land was identified by Mogale City Municipality and Blue Age merely facilitated the acquisition and transfer of that land. The bank paid R3.6-million for the land and R3.1-million for the relocation – monies that will be recouped against bulk services at their Cradlestone property.
The [evicted squatters] feels betrayed and has lost hope, said Baleni. “I don’t think [the] Human Rights Commission will agree with the conditions we are living under, I want to see justice.” – Health-e News.
*Cape Town Lawyers, Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc., is a law firm in Cape Town CBD of specialised eviction lawyers offering legal help to landlords and tenants regarding residential, commercial and farm evictions. Now helping clients in Gauteng and Kwazulu Natal.